#SundayRead: Potential Careers for Former Athletes Post Retirement

Athletes in pursuit of their highest achievement often miss out on ‘normal life’, but those keen to succeed in life and on the sports field make sure to map out their after-competition aspirations. Lonwabo Nkohla discusses some rewarding post-competitive careers suited to former athletes. Photo: Supplied

People outside of sports spend their twenties either in academia or trying to find their footing on the career ladder, with many job-hopping until the very end of the decade.

A career in sport is not as lengthy as any other career paths, while many kick start their career in their early 20s and find a bit of stability in their 30s, athletes must start thinking of life after retirement. 

This can be a daunting task because sometimes all you’ve known as an athlete is your work on the pitch. There hasn’t really been time to study, up-skill or even turn to entrepreneurship. 

Fortunately, athletes have many transferable skills that would give them an upper hand in a number of professions and industries. 

After years of training, they are no stranger to the value of discipline and consistency; they strive for perfection and achievement and are highly motivated individuals. Athletes who got to compete internationally have had the opportunity to network with people across the globe and are well-travelled and adaptable.

For this article we explore some paths available for athletes post-retirement: A career in an athletic-related field is probably the easiest and best way to start, it also gives the former athlete an opportunity to blend your passion with a profession. 

Life Coach

Ex-coaches and athletes can be great life coaches because they know what it’s like to work hard, achieve their goals, and live a disciplined life. If they become life coaches, they can share their experiences to help inspire clients in attaining career and life goals. Also, shifting to a career as a life coach is relatively straightforward because all you need is a life coach certification.


Most professional athletes and coaches have degrees under their belt, so it’s easy to transition to a teaching career. They can use this experience to inspire and help their students learn both academic and practical lessons.

Besides, making a lesson plan is not that different from developing strategies and plays for big games. 

Personal Trainer

Many fitness clubs hire ex-professional athletes to work as personal trainers or exercise instructors even if they do not have certification or experience as instructors and trainers. The reason behind this is that clubs believe former professional athletes can help promote their businesses.

Besides their first-hand experience in training, ex-coaches and athletes already possess exceptional personal trainer qualities that include persistence, punctuality, and enthusiasm.

Sales Professional

A career in sales is financially rewarding but requires hard work, flexibility, and dedication. Since hard work is nothing new to former coaches and athletes, they are the best candidates to join this business field.

Additionally, former sports professionals thrive in competition, and they do not back down easily when faced with challenging environments. It’s the reason they fit perfectly in sales. Getting the deals and working out impossible contracts can give former athletes the adrenaline rush commonly linked to winning.

Digital Communication Officer

A new trend that former professional athletes and coaches can dip their toes in is becoming an influencer. Many social media users look for individuals who can inspire them to be the best they can be.

Besides, pro-athletes and coaches probably already have massive followers, so transitioning to a digital communication career would be effortless. Of course, to succeed in this job, you need to upgrade your social marketing and other skills related to digital communication.

Public Relations Officer

Athletes and coaches have a lot of experience and knowledge about maintaining a good public image. A career in public relations, which oversees the public’s perception of a company or brand, is a good transition job for retiring pro-athletes and even coaches.

Suppose you have maintained an excellent public image during your pro career. In that case, many companies will want to capitalise on that goodwill and be willing to let you handle their public relations. However, to succeed in this job, you must be comfortable talking to the public and the press.


A psychologist diagnoses and treats mental health issues. Psychologists create specialised treatment plans and use therapy and other techniques to help their patients. A psychologist can specialise in a field such as child psychology or sports psychology. Some psychologists work in areas such as substance abuse, helping patients overcome addiction.


Professional athletes acquire abilities that are extremely useful in the business world. Work ethic, goal-setting, resilience, and performance-based mindsets are some examples. There are many different kinds of entrepreneurs who can work on a wide range of projects. They all bring to life concepts that haven’t been put into practice before.

After their professional playing careers, athletes who start their businesses may attempt more conventional business-to-consumer or business-to-business start-ups, or they may develop curriculums, foundations, programs, or academies that are in line with their previous sporting careers or a field in which they have a personal interest. 

Due to the status, they gained while playing professionally, professional athletes frequently find it easier than others to create a buzz or build communities around their new ideas or products. This makes this career path a natural fit for many athletes after retirement.

Sports Agent

Those who adore sports and have an acumen for business can thrive as sports agents. They have the ability to improve and protect the lives of their clients. They also get to immerse themselves in a sport that they love. Becoming a sports agent does not happen overnight. The most successful sports agents work for many years and for long hours to become the best at what they do.

Sports agents are responsible for managing the careers of athletes. They also represent their clients and help them reach a financially rewarding agreement in their contract.

Other media-related jobs: In broadcasting, there are many options for former athletes, from Commentator, Analyst, to becoming a Sports Anchor. These normally come easy for former athletes because their prominent name is already a massive tick on the CV when they approach Executive Producers on TV sometimes they are approached with job opportunities first before even applying. 


Click Here for Additional Resources (SportsMedicineWeekly.com)


Photo 1 Caption: Former Banayana Banana captain Simphiwe Dludlu is a great example for professional athletes looking to establish themselves in post-competitive career, with her remarkable success as a South Africa’s coach at the FIFA U17 Women’s World Cup in Uruguay, and as a television sport analyst with the SABC. Photo: Supplied 


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